The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 3-4

“The Lord Jesus, in his human nature was thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure (Ps. 45:7; Jn. 3:34); having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell (Col. 1:19); to the end, that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14; Heb. 7:26), he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety (Acts 10:38; Heb. 7:22; 12:24). Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father (Heb. 5:4-5); who put all power and judgment into his hand and gave commandment to execute the same (Mt. 28:18; Jn. 5:22, 27; Acts 2:36).” Here the fathers wanted to make clear that Jesus was victorious in his work not by being somehow empowered by his divine nature, but rather, that he was anointed for his threefold office by the Spirit’s power without measure.

“Christians have long recognized that before his tormentors could begin their dirty work, Jesus had already discovered in a garden the agonizing pangs of the penalty reserved for sinners (Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44). John Calvin called this Christ’s ‘descent into hell’, borrowing a phrase in the Apostle’s Creed to make his point. It was on the cross that Jesus finally cried out in anguish, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt. 27:46).”1It would appear that the fathers understood his being ordained and appointed as his “commandment to do the same.” “It was necessary that he be given divine orders to fulfill the task (Heb. 5:1; Lk. 4:18). The Old Testament persons anointed of God to hold messianic offices by way of anticipation were supernaturally endowed for their work by a special operation of the Holy Spirit distinct from such operations as he may have performed for (or in) them personally (see I Sam. 10:1,6, compared with I Sam. 28:18:16, Judges 14:6, 16:20).”2

“Jesus was the guarantor of the covenant, the covenant discussed in the previous chapter. And he knew what the cost of serving as a guarantor would be, for he knew that we are perpetual breakers. Christ could be the ‘mediator’ of a ‘new covenant’ that speaks ‘ as Hebrews 12 says , only if he also ‘became the guarantor [or surety] of that covenant’ as Hebrews 7 says (Heb. 12:24; 7:22). Yet in his grace and mercy Jesus accepted that office. Incredibly, he considered it an honour to do so. No man takes this honour, this glory to himself – he awaits the call of God, as Hebrews 5 explains (Heb. 5:4,5). And that call came. Our Lord was ‘called by his Father’ to be our mediator, and the Father gave him all that he needed for his task. Of course he gave him the Holy Spirit beyond all measure, for his work was appallingly arduous and his suffering would be great. Our mediator is one who was given all power (Mt. 28:18), and to him is committed all judgment (John 5:22,27).”3

“It was Christ’s loving eagerness that the author of the letter to the Hebrews noted as he reflected on the meaning of Psalm 40. He points out that just after the psalmist dismissed the sufficiency of temple sacrifices and offerings in verse 6, a person suddenly appears in verses 8-9 who says that he is coming, that he would delight to do God’s will and obey God’s law. Who else could this be but Christ himself? He would serve as the true intermediary, and he would keep God’s law (compare Psa. 40:6-9 with Heb. 10:5-12) and becomes obedient ‘to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). So it was that when God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, this Son was born ‘under the law’ (Gal. 4:4).”4It should be noted, that the author to the Hebrews sees the Son’s fulfillment of the whole of the law, including brining to fulfillment of the sacrificial system, that the latter would then be changed to the simplicity of the new covenant ceremonies, and the former kept to continue.

“This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake (Ps. 40:7-8; Jn. 10:18; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 10:5-10); which he might discharge, he was made under the law (Gal. 4:4), and did perfectly fulfill it (Mt. 3:15; 5:17); endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul (Mt. 26:37-38; 27:46; Lk. 22:44), and most painful sufferings in his body (Mt. 26-27); was crucified, and died (Phil. 2:8); was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption (Acts 2:23-24, 27; 13:37; Rom. 6:9). On the third day he arose from the dead (I Cor. 15:3-5), with the same body in which he suffered (Jn. 20:25-27); with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father (Mk. 6:19), making intercession (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24); and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world (Mt. 13:40-42; Acts 1:11; 10:42; Rom. 14:9-10; II Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).” In the single ‘office’ of a mediator and surety, the Son fulfills the three anointed offices.

“By living a righteous life, that is, by keeping the whole law, he earned a righteousness that could be imputed to us who have none.”5This we call his active obedience, only in comparison to his passion. However, it must not be forgotten that in his passion he actively gave of himself. His life was not in this sense taken from him. The shorter catechism, immediately following the treatment of Christ’s office as King, then moves on at Q & A 27 to teach of his humiliation, consisting “in his being born, and that in a low condition (Lk. 2:7), made under the law (Gal 4:4), undergoing the miseries of this life (Is. 53:3), the wrath of God (Mt. 27:46), and the cursed death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time (I Cor. 15:4).” In the same way the Confession begins first with Christ’s humiliation, and then goes on to his exaltation. It is thus half way through section 4 that we come to his exaltation.

“It can be unhesitatingly said that Christ at all times performed his preaching, worked his miracles, and yielded perfect obedience, in entire dependence upon the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). Thus he said, “I can do nothing of myself” (John 8:28). His constant praying evidences his entire dependence upon God.” This being the case with the Christ, how much more do we need prayer. “It is equally true and important that he was possessed of a divine nature. Thus he was, in and of himself, able to lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:17). Endowment by the Holy Spirit as to his human nature could not have given him this divine authority and power.”6Shaw gives quite a full and valuable ‘Exposition’ of section 4 (147-154), as does Hodge of both 3 and 4 (143-148). Suffice it to stress that unlike many other Reformed confessions, old and new, here in the latter part of the 4thsection we find the biblical stress on the ascension.

1. Van Dixhoorn (117)

2. Williamson, (76)

3. Van Dixhoorn, (115)

4. Ibid., (116-117)

5. Clark, (97)

6. Williamson, (76)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 2

“The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature (Jn 1:1, 14; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; I Jn. 5:20), with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:15); being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance (Lk. 1:27, 31, 35; Gal. 4:4).” The Roman church, who like some protestants and others, who conceived of the transmission of the sinful nature by way of procreation instead of our covenantal inclusion in Adam, put forward the idea of the immaculate conception of Mary, to try and explain how Jesus could be born of a human, without sin. This is not a problem if one understands the biblical doctrine of the covenant, that Jesus being the appointed head of the new covenant, was not included in the covenant broken in Adam.

“So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition or confusion (Lk. 1:35; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; I Tim. 3:16; I Pet. 3:18). Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (Rom. 1:3-4; I Tim. 2:5).” This conception obviously draws on the Confession of Chalcedon (AD 451), showing that the authors saw the value of its connection with the profession of the true Catholic Church which had gone before. It is important for the church to show our continuity with the faithful professions of the past. As the saying goes, there is no point in reinventing the wheel, and the Chalcedon stood firmly on the scriptural testimony from the beginning. Therefore, there is nothing novel here. Here we should note the origin of the sonship of Jesus, that it has been from all eternity, and hence the expression – by ‘eternal generation’.

Jesus human nature was fully human – that being both body and soul. “That Christ had a human soul is equally unquestionable. He ‘increased in wisdom and stature’ (Luke 2:52); the one in respect of his body, the other in respect of his soul. In his agony, he said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ (Mark 14:34); and on the cross, he committed it to his Father, saying ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).”1 Jesus had a human mind. It is for this reason we are said to have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16). The Son was in the likeness of sinful flesh, but being the destined head of a new covenant, he was sinless from before and through his human conception. “The purity of our Lord’s human nature was necessary to qualify him for his mediatory work; for if he had been himself a sinner, he could not have satisfied for the sins of others. ‘Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners’ (Heb. 7:26).”2

“That the Godhead and the manhood are united in the one person of Christ is confirmed by all those passages of Scripture which speak of two natures as belonging to our Saviour (e.g., Is. 4:6; Mt. 1:18; Rom. 4:5). In consequence of this union, the attributes and acts which are proper to one nature are ascribed to the person of Christ. He could only obey and suffer in the human nature, but his obedience and sufferings are predicated of him as the Son of God – as the Lord of Glory (I Cor. 2:8; Heb. 5:8).” There is no other mediator between God and humanity (I Tim. 2:5). “This is not a case of man becoming God (which will never happen). This is God becoming man.”3“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9 Cf. Rom. 9:5). “There was no ‘conversion’ – the divinity was not lost in humanity, or humanity in divinity. There was no ‘composition’ – the incarnation did not result in some new creature that was neither God nor man. In fact, there was no ‘confusion’ between the human nature and divine nature at all.”4

The apostle John, who gave such a clear statement of the eternal sonship of the Word, also issued grave warnings upon those who would espouse heretical views with respect to the Son’s person in his first and second letters respectively (4:2-4; vv. 9-10). Williamson notes a number of these heresies that arouse to be refuted at Chalcedon. “(1) Apollinaris taught that Christ had a body and soul, but that in place of a human spirit Christ had a divine Logos, or Word; (2) Nestorianism taught that there are two separate persons, the one divine and the other human, rather than one person having two natures, in Christ; (3) Eutychianism taught that in the person of Christ incarnate there was but a single, and that a divine, nature.”5There were others, such as Docetism, the doctrine, important in Gnosticism, that Christ’s body was not human but either a phantasm or of real but celestial substance, and that therefore his sufferings were only apparent.

Williamson also rightly makes reference to the Larger Catechism at this point, with regard to the impossibility, and indeed the prohibition, of any human representation of the Son. “The modern practice of making pictures of Christ as if his human nature could properly be portrayed by itself is not only a fearful error; it is impossible. For this reason the Westminster Larger Catechism consistently declares “the making of any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever” as a violation of the second commandment (Q 109).”6 One final point must be noted, in that the Son was partaker only of the human substance of Eve, Paul stated that he was “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), and in so doing we must understand that he is the only one who could fulfill the first gospel promise of Gen. 3:15, namely that he is of the seed of the woman, although also the seed of Abraham (Heb. 2:16), and David (Rom. 1:3).7

1. Shaw, (144)

2. Ibid., (144)

3. Van Dixhoorn, (111)

4. Ibid., (112)

5. (74)

6. (75)

7. Again, for a thorough treatment of a systematic theology on this section, as others, see Hodge (137-142).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 1

“It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man (Is. 42:1; Jn. 3:16; I Tim. 2:5; I Pet. 1:19-20).” Even as the Father has elected a certain number out of the human race to receive salvation, it was necessary also that he, with the willingness of the son, and the witness of the Spirit, to set apart the Son to be a mediator between the triune God and elect sinners (Cf. WCF. 3:3-6). Furthermore, it is within the context of the covenant of grace that this mediator would come and act on behalf of the elect (WCF. 7:3-4). As this covenant is seen in the history of progressive revelation, variously administered, even so the work of the promised mediator is also seen to progress to an ever increasing revelation. Jesus was born with a purpose, and to this purpose he was ordained. See also the WLC 32, 36, 38-42.

Such a mediator had to be able to represent both parties, so that this is but one reason for the incarnation of the Son of God. When he was born under law, of the virgin Mary, and when he was of age, in his case 30, he was tested in the wilderness for 40 days of the devil, after his anointing of the Spirit. In this trial, the devil tested the Messiah on all three offices for which he was anointed, in his one person. He was first of all tested with respect to his office as a prophet, whether the word would be his first and only axiom of all thought and practice (Mt. 4:1-4). Next the devil tested him on how he would serve as the temple Priest of God’s presence (Mt. 4:5-7). Finally, the devil tempted him with the promise of all the kingdoms of the world, but he chose the path to his Messianic reign over all the kingdoms of the world in the worship and service of the LORD of the covenant.

The same progressive revelation coming to fruition in the Son, is given proof in the covenantal prologue of Hebrews 1:1-4, he who would follow in covenantal succession to the last of the old covenant administrations of grace in David. The son was in fact he by whom the prophets spoke, and who created the ages in which they spoke in this progressive revelation of himself (vv.1-2). The last days of the old covenant came to completion when the son ascended to his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, when, as our Great High Priest, “He had by Himself purged our sins.” He then, having fulfilled these two prerequisites, sat to reign as the Prophet-Priest-King (v. 3). The fact is, in the old testament, it was taught that only the Messiah could occupy all three offices in his one person as God and man (). His was the Son’s inheritance, all contained in his name – Jesus the Christ.

“The Prophet (Acts 3:22), Priest (Heb. 5:5-6), and King (Ps. 2:6; Lk. 1:33); the Head and Saviour of his Church (Eph. 5:23); Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2); and Judge of the world (Acts 17:31).”      These truths find even fuller expression in the Shorter (23-26), and Larger Catechisms (42-45). As regards the role of “Judge of the world (Acts 17:31),” it is important to note that Jesus as the righteous One, was also ordained to this task, it being committed to him by the Father (Jn. 5:22). “Head and Saviour” of course refers to his role as mediator being within the context of the covenant of grace (Ch. VII.), and to whom the Father “did from all eternity give a people to be his seed (Ps. 22:30; Is. 53:10; Jn. 17:6), and to be by him redeemed, called, justified, sanctified and glorified (Is. 55:4-5; I Cor. 1:30; I Tim. 2:6).” Section V refers back to the rest of this chapter as dealing with reconciliation (Cf. Hodge, 133-137).

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VII. 4-6

“The covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a Testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed (Heb. 7:22; 9:15-17; Lk. 22:20; I Cor. 11:25).” The authors of the Confession had before them and the church, the Authorized or King James version only. To this end they sought to clarify, in the context here of dealing with the covenant, the appearance of the word ‘testament’. Indeed, the bible itself continues to be referred to as the Old and New Testament. Shaw summarizes the issue well in the following. “In Authorised Version of the New Testament, the covenant of grace is frequently designated a testament; and it is generally admitted, that the original word signifies both a covenant and a testament. There is, at least, one passage in which it is most properly rendered ‘testament, namely, Hebrews 9:16,17. Some learned critics, indeed, have strenuously contended against the use of that term even in this passage; but the great majority allow that the common translation is unexceptionable.”1

This has proven to be the case with subsequent English translations of the word ‘diatheke’. The NASB translators chose not to use the word ‘testament’ even at Hebrews 9:16-17. The NKJV uses the word ‘testament’ here, but in the other places where the KJV uses testament, the NKJV uses covenant. Other translations, such as the ESV, use the word ‘will’, no doubt to convey the same thought as testament in a more colloquial use. However, the NKJV by parting ways with the KJV on the other passages, but in keeping the word testament here, helps the reader to perhaps understand the name which continues to be applied to the first and second of the two major epochs of revelation. At Hebrews 9:16-17 the author appears to want to convey both ideas as being found in the word ‘diatheke’ for specific reasons. The author sought to demonstrate that the Son came as the successor of the last administration of the one redemptive covenant of grace in David, and having demonstrated this (Chs 1-2), he wants to convey that he passes the blessings of the covenant to his people as an inheritance offered in him.

“Where death is the effective basis of a covenant, as, pre-eminently, with the death of Christ and the implementation of the new covenant, it is the death of one offered in sacrifice; but death of any kind, violent or peaceful, suffices for the provisions made by a testator in his will to take effect. The sacrificial death of Christ, therefore, answers the demands both of a covenant and of a testament.”2That is, it is not an either/or use of diatheke, but a both/and, such is the expansive comprehensive nature of the relationship which exists between Christ and his people. The context of Hebrews 9:16-17 clearly points to the testamentary aspect more than the covenantal. To this end the Confession points out “the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.” “This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel (II Cor. 3:6-9): under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come (Rom. 4:11; I Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:11-12; Heb. 8-10).”

The terms used in the so-called “time of the law and gospel” were often used in the past to signify the old and new testaments by reference to that which most characterized each administration, but such terminology has largely been dropped, since many use the terms to deny what the authors actually wanted to affirm, that law is continued in the new testament, and gospel is also to be found in the old. The inseparable connection between these two aspects is reinforced by way of the new fulfilling the promises, prophecies, and sacrificial system of the old, as the saints in the old administration looked ahead to the Messiah, whom we look back to. It should be noted that the fathers did not include the moral law, or the civil case code as something that is changed or somehow abrogated in the new, and therefore, as has been seen by their overall axiom of the scriptures as a whole, that these are to be understood as continuing. This is in fact clearly stated by the Lord, with the warning of judgment against any who would contradict him (Mt. 5:17-20). There are also various ‘types and ordinances’ which Christ fulfills.

All these elements in the older administration “were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah (Jn. 8:56; I Cor. 10:1-4; Heb. 11:13), by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament (Gal. 3:7-9, 14).” The Confession clearly affirms the very same gospel as is found in the new administration is also in the old. Any differences therefore, are to be understood by way of administration. “Under the gospel, when Christ the substance (Col. 2:17), was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are, the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 11:23-25); which though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet in them it is held forth in more fulness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy (Jer. 31:33-34; Heb. 12:22-27), to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles (Mt. 28:19; Eph. 2:15-19; and is called the New Testament (Lk. 22:20).”

The two key elements in the Christian church are the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments, and although more ‘full’ and ‘efficacious’ than the old, are still of the same gospel substance. Furthermore, it was the responsibility of the older testament people of God to extend the gospel to the nations, this also finds greater emphasis in the new. The signs and sacraments of the covenant go from circumcision to baptism, and the Passover is now the Lord’s supper. “There are not, therefore, two covenants of grace differing in substance, but one and the same under various dispensations (Ps. 32:1; Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:21-23, 30; 4:3, 6, 16-17, 23-24; Gal. 3:14, 16; Heb. 13:8).” Just as clarification was required in the authors’ use of the word ‘testament’, even so the word ‘dispensation’ calls for clarification. Given the heresy of dispensationalism, which in fact advocates at least two different ways by which the people of God were and are saved, a better word would be the one that is at times also employed in the Confession, that being ‘administration’.

1. (136)

2. P. Hughes, ‘A Commentary On The Epistle To The Hebrews’ (369)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VII. 1-3

“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he has been please to express by way of covenant (I Sam. 2:25; Job 9:32-33; 22:2-3; 35:7-8; Pss. 113:5-6; 100:2-3; Is. 40:13-17; Hos. 6:5; Lk. 17:10; Acts 17:24-25).” The Fathers recognized that there is ample scriptural proof that God established the human race in a covenant relationship with himself through its head – Adam. However, it includes more than the human creatures, it includes all creatures. When they indicated that a reasonable creature owes obedience, they focused on that central core of being human – being of a rational mind to in fact see the reasonableness of obeying the Creator. For this reason many choose to describe this first covenant as ‘the covenant of creation’.1

This is certainly what is implied in the first section of this chapter. However, it has also come to be called, as here in the second section, a covenant of works, given the probationary law test which was imposed upon the head of creation – humanity in Adam.2“The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works (Gal. 3:12), wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity (Rom. 5:12-20; 10:5), upon condition of perfection and personal obedience (Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10).” “As Christ was a federal head, representing all his spiritual seed in the covenant of grace, so Adam was a federal head representing all his natural seed in the covenant of works (I Cor. 15:45-47).”3 Although it is called a covenant of works, that is as to the requirement of perfect obedience. However, there is a sense in which any move on God’s part to establish a relationship with his creatures is itself a condescension of grace. Life eternal would also been a gift, if we had obeyed.4

Obedience to our Creator is but our duty, whether in the covenant of works or that of grace. Clark also brings out the point that, should one complain that they were thus regarded as acting through Adam as the covenantal head of humanity, “God could have tested each descendent personally in exactly the same way he decided to test Adam. God did not have to grant eternal life to succeeding generations merely because Adam obeyed.”5 Clark also points out the biblical conception on how sin is thus transmitted to Adam’s posterity. Some teach that our sinful nature is passed on by the simple act of pro-creation, that is physically. This is but one example where the church still retains a kind of pagan dualism, where the body is evil in and of itself. However, as Reformed, we know that the whole of our constitution is affected. Rather, we sinned in Adam by way of he representing us as our covenantal head, so that at that moment we became sinners in him.

“This idea brings to our attention the interesting relation that God established between Adam and his posterity. It was not merely that Adam was their father. He was, in addition, their representative. His act was to be counted as their act. He acted for and instead of them. This relation was mentioned in the reference to imputed guilt in Chapter VI, and further explanations will be given when we arrive at the relation between Christ and those who believe on him. Chapter VI also made it quite clear that Adam did not fulfill the covenant of works. He disobeyed, and thereby made necessary a second covenant, if anyone was to be saved.”6 Hodge makes the same point. “This covenant was also in its essence a covenant of grace, in that it graciously promised life in the society of God as the freely-granted reward of an obedience already unconditionally due.”7

Shaw makes the following point, should anyone be so proud as to think that they may have acted differently. “Adam, being made after the image of God, was as capable of keeping the covenant as any of his posterity could ever be supposed to be; that he should fulfill it was as much his personal interest as that of any of his descendants.”8It should also be noted that the tree that our head was commanded not to eat from was described as “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”(Gen. 2:9). This is crucial to understand. The chief point of contact, and here of the one command of our probation, was a clearly epistemological one, with its concomitant of ethics. We decided to reject the revelation of the Creator, and in its place we accepted the lies of the Serpent, and reasoning apart from revelation we thus sinned by transgressing God’s law. This continues to be the key issue today.

“Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second (Gen. 3:15; Is. 42:6; Gal. 3:21; Rom. 3:20-21; 8:3), commonly called the Covenant of Grace: whereby he freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 10:6, 9; Gal. 3:11); and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe (Ezek. 36:26-27; Jn. 6:44-45; Acts 13:48).” In a similar manner, even though the covenant of grace is called such, it is not to imply that works are not involved in the covenant relationship. However, the requirement of repentance and faith is provided by God as a gift, and so also our works are as a result of God working in and through us by his grace. Here we see that the promise is still life, but it is life which must now be inseparable from salvation.

Van Dixhoorn makes a valuable point here. “From the words ‘requiring them’ and ‘promising…those’ it appears that WCF 7.3 presents the covenant as made with sinners; it does not specify whether the covenant is made with sinners in Christ. In WCF 7.6 it is clear that the substance of the covenant of grace is Christ himself. Where the first covenant is a deep expression of God’s willingness to have fellowship with mere creatures, this second covenant is a staggering display of God’s willingness to forgive and to have fellowship with those who are unworthy.”9 Some would argue that the word covenant does not occur with either of these, but we believe in the trinity, though the word also does not occur in the bible. The point is that all the elements of a covenant are there. Furthermore, salvation is also a trinitarian reality, in that we are given the Holy Spirit that we might be willing.

“When Ezekiel recorded God’s promise of a ‘new heart’ for heartless sinners, he was also told to tell of ‘a new Spirit’ who would be ‘within’ us (Ezek. 36:26). It is by this Spirit that the Father would ‘draw us’ to the waters of salvation, and teach us to come to Christ (John 6:44,45). And remember too that this gift is for those who are ‘ordained unto eternal life’ and nothing less. For in this second covenant, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have offered a relationship to us that will never end.”10 “In this covenant the Mediator assumes in behalf of his elect seed the broken conditions of the old covenant of works precisely as Adam left them. Christ therefore suffered the penalty, and extinguished in behalf of all whom he represented the claims of the old covenant. Subsequently, in the administration and gracious application of this covenant, Christ the Mediator offers the blessings secured by it to all men on the condition of faith.”11

1. ‘The Christ Of The Covenants’ O. Palmer Robertson.

2. The Shorter catechism in fact calls it the covenant of life, since that was the promise held out as a reward for obedience (#12).

3. Shaw, (129)

4. John Murray, ‘The Covenant Of Grace’.

5. (86)

6. (86)

7. (122)

8. (130 Cf. Shaw also makes the point that the fathers rejected the notion of a so-called ‘covenant of redemption’ between the persons of the trinity 131-2. The trinity certainly determined in eternity to establish these covenants, and with respect to the covenant of grace, the roles played by each person 133-)

9. (100)

10. Ibid., (101)

11. Hodge, (125 Cf. WLC Ch. 7)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VI. 5-6

“The corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated (Pr. 20:9; Ec. 7:20; Rom. 7:14-18, 23; Js. 3:2; I Jn. 1:8-10), and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin (Rom. 7:5-8, 25; Gal. 5:17).” As noted in the previous sections, the corruption of our human nature is as a result of our first sin, in Adam, in transgressing a specific law of the covenant of works, as will be shown in the next chapter. This corruption remains in those who have been regenerated, even though we are nevertheless pronounced ‘justified’ through our relationship of imputation with Christ, in the one covenant of grace. ‘Mortified’ is an older term not often employed today, which means as one might suppose, in the putting to death of sin that remains in us.1 It is therefore of the purview of sanctification, and in stating that we are both pardoned and mortified through Christ, the authors are affirming that the grounds for progressive sanctification is a complete or definitive sanctification gained by Christ in his death and resurrection.

It is both the nature corrupted, and the sins flowing from this corruption, that are “truly and properly sin.” There is no other name for this condition. “Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto (I Jn. 3:4), does, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner (Rom. 2:15; 3:9, 19), whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:3), and curse of the law (Gal. 3:10), and so made subject to death (Rom. 6:23), with all miseries spiritual (Eph. 4:18), temporal (Rom. 8:20; Lam. 3:39), and eternal (Mt. 25:41; II Th. 1:9).” The fathers were quick to define sin in biblical terms as, “being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto (I Jn. 3:4),” and ‘guilt’ is a judicial pronouncement of our act in the original sin, and our corrupted nature and acts done exclusively by ourselves therefrom. As such, all humanity is also therefore subject to God’s wrath, and a covenantal curse for the transgression of his law. As such we are subject to the consequent death, with all its “spiritual miseries.” For the regenerate, the process of mortification is the putting to death of sin’s power and dominion.

Our miseries, as a result of our sinful condition, are both temporal and eternal, unless we are renewed by regeneration within the one covenant of grace. The Larger Catechism expounds on these ‘miseries’ of the reprobate further, in the 28th Question which asks, “‘What are the punishments of sin in this world?’ A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.” #29 addresses those miseries that befall the reprobate at their physical death. “The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire forever.” (See Gen. 3:17; 4:13; Dt. 28:15-68; Is. 33:14; Mt. 5:29-30; 25:41, 46; 27:4; Mk. 9:44-48; Lk. 16:24; Rom. 1:26-28; 6:21-23; 2:5; Eph. 4:18; II Th. 1:9; 2:11; Rev. 14:9-12).

The Confession clearly repudiates the false belief of perfectionism, that although we do progress in our sanctification as those regenerated by the Spirit, this process will not be complete until death, when we are made completely new in reality. The point is, in being justified we are indeed forgiven of all our sins, including those in the future, but a sign that we are truly regenerated, is that we are engaged in our sanctification daily. Furthermore, the confession also repudiates the false teaching that we are two persons and not one, i.e., the old man and the new. Rather, the old man is crucified, but the remnants of sin which remain are to be mortified. The Confession also repudiates the doctrine of the Roman Church that there are so-called ‘mortal’ sins, and ‘venial’, with the latter worse than the former. Rather the scriptures, the Confession, and the Larger Catechism (28-29), all affirm that all sin is mortal, that is, deserving of death. “The main point is that regeneration does not immediately eradicate sin. Indeed no matter how saintly a Christian may become, he never achieves sinless perfection in this life.”2

1. ‘The Mortification of Sin’ John Owen, The Banner Of Truth Trust [Abridged and made easy to read by Richard Rushing] ©2004.

2. Clark, (78)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VI.3-4

“They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:16-17; Acts 17:26; Rom. 4:11, 23-25; 5:12, 15-19; I Cor. 15:21-22).” ‘They’, of course, are Adam and Eve, and ‘this sin’ is the so-called ‘original sin’, as per the previous sections (1-2). Here the fathers of the Confession were very specific as to why all people are sinners because of what transpired so long ago through our first parents. The ‘guilt’ of condemnation on all is via ‘imputation’. Paul makes clear that we actually sinned this original sin ourselves, through Adam our covenantal head (5:12). It is not  by pro-creation, otherwise there would be no grounds for our justification, because it comes by way of the imputation of our sin to him, and his righteous standing to us (Rom. 4:11, 23-25; 5:15-19). “And the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation (Gen. 5:3; Job14:4; 15:14; Ps. 51:5).”

The fathers added “by ordinary generation” to exclude Christ, who, because he was never included the Adamic or Creation ‘covenant of works’, did not have our first transgression imputed to him. Confusion in this matter also is the basis for the Roman Catholic conception of ‘the immaculate conception’.1 “From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite all good (Rom. 5:6; 7:18; 8:7; Col. 1:21), and wholly inclined to all evil (Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 3:10-12), do proceed all actual transgressions (Mt. 15:19; Eph. 2:2-3; Js. 1:14-15).” The biblical truth of covenantal headship, as being central to both Adam and Christ, also leads to what was a point of contention among the fathers of the Confession, when it comes to the question of the corruption of our nature, namely, in how it is passed on to Adam’s posterity. In addition to the problem of doctrine of ‘the immaculate conception’ noted above, there are also a number of other problems with this view.2

First, it would require that this corruption would have to also pass via Eve, but the scriptures are clear that our state as sinners is due solely to our connection to our covenant head – Adam, and not Eve. Second, due to our connection to our new head, Christ, it must imply that the performance of any good, in contrast to our ‘actual sins’, would require that Jesus’ own righteous character would need to pass on to us as well, or that we perform them strictly in our own strength. See WSC #16, and WLC #22. “If God is sovereign, and if he has approved the principle of representation, then there is nothing immoral about representation and imputation.”3 With respect to Section IV, Clark adds, “this corruption pervades our whole nature. There is no part or function of man that is unaffected by sin.”4 This last point is also a reiteration of the doctrine of ‘total depravity’.

1. InChristian theology, theImmaculate Conception is the conception of the Virgin Mary free from original sin by virtue of the merits of her son Jesus. The Catholic Church teaches that God acted upon Mary in the first moment of her conception, keeping her “immaculate”.[1] Immaculate Conception is commonly confused with the virgin birth of Jesus, the latter being, rather, the doctrine of the Incarnation. While virtually all Christians believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, it is principally Roman Catholics, along with various other Christian denominations, who believe in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Although the belief that Mary was sinless, or conceived without original sin, has been widely held since Late Antiquity, the doctrine was not dogmatically defined in the Catholic Church until 1854 when Pope Pius IX, declared ex cathedra, i.e., using papal infallibility, in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus,[2] the Immaculate Conception to be doctrine. The Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8; in many Catholic countries, it is a holy day of obligation or patronal feast, and in some a national public holiday.[3] (Wikipedia)

2. “The portrayal in WCF 6.3 of Adam and Eve as the dual source of human guilt reflects an older Christian tradition that emphasizes our participation in the effects of their sin by reason of our biological connection to the corrupt human nature of our first parents. Nonetheless, the description of both Adam and Eve as ‘a root of all mankind’ is comparatively unusual in English theology before and after 1646. George Walker offers the more common understanding of the phrase when he restricts this ‘root’ to Adam. See, e.g., Walker, ‘History of Creation as It Was Written by Moses’, pp. 197, 207, and Walker, ‘The Key of Saving Knowledge’ (London, 1641), p. 20, where he refers to Adam as the ‘common stock and root of mankind’, and Walker, ‘A Sermon Preached in London by a faithful Minister of Christ’ (London, 1642), p. 12, where he calls Adam the ‘common father and root of all mankind’. In the years following the assembly the most prominent person to note the assembly’s phrase in 6.3 was the Irish Bishop Jeremy Taylor, who catalogues it as a fault, and lists it within a larger condemnation of assembly doctrines. See Jeremy Taylor, Deus justificatus (London, 1656), pp. 29-30” Van Dixhoorn, (89).

3. Clark, (75)

4. (77 Cf. “Romans 5 is not the only section of the New Testament where the idea of imputation is found. The previous chapter is full of it. Verses 6, 8, 11, 24 all contain the same word in Greek. A concordance will show that the same word and the same idea is also found in II Timothy 4:16, II Cor. 5:19, Philemon 18, and elsewhere. Some of these references speak to the imputation of sin, some of the imputation of righteousness, some use the idea in relation to human obligations. But all exemplify the idea of imputation.” 74)

An Introduction To Canon Formation.

It is popular in conservative circles to suggest that the formation of the canon, especially the Hebrew/Aramaic, is a matter which rests solely on the witness of the Holy Spirit to the individual believer, or the corporate body. Without deny that this is what enables one to make a true judgement, it fails to note the criteria which the Spirit himself has given us within the scriptures themselves, which in fact reinforces their self-referential authority as canon. The reluctance to see any human involvement in this enterprise stems, I believe, at least in part, from the Protestant response to the Roman Catholic dogma that the church, through her leadership, has the final authority to determine the formation of the canon. Again, also not wanting to deny the error of this dogma, it does not follow that the scriptures themselves do not provide the plenary and conceptual criteria which we not only can refer to, but are in fact commanded to do so.

This paradigm is found in the tests given in determining whom were true prophets and who were not. Although not exhausting all the locations where material may be found, two key passages, logically found in the last book of Moses, who was uniquely confirmed to be a true prophet of God by God, are at Deuteronomy 13, and 18:15-22. The former is a qualifying test to be brought to certain empirical phenomenon. A so-called “dreamer of dreams,” doing ‘wonders’, even if also calling themselves a ‘prophet’, were not speaking the truth if they were advocating a commitment to other gods, other than the One Only God as revealed through Moses in the law. The law was to be referred to in the formation of further canon (vv. 1-5). So serious was this matter, that even if one’s own family were guilty, it was literally a matter of life and death (vv. 6-11), so also for any community which ignored or disregarded this canonical test (vv. 12-18).

Although Wolfe does not specifically apply 18:15-22, he does put forward the following with respect to verses 18, and 20-22. “There are three things to notice in this passage. First of all, we actually have here a critical attitude toward what claims to be revelation. Not just anyone can get away with standing up and speaking for God. Specific constraints are imposed upon the would-be prophet so we can discriminate between real and phony ones. Second, the prophet must relate his message to the Mosaic teaching (“a prophet like you”) and relate his teaching to the already established words of Jehovah (“when a prophet speaks in the Name of the LORD”). This is an application of the coherence criterion. A prophet who delivered teachings totally unrelated to the prophetic tradition was not to be taken seriously. Finally, then there is an application of experiential or empirical constraints. No prophet whose predictions fail is to be believed on other matters. [‘Epistemology. The Justification Of Belief.’ (81)]

Fulfillment in history, one might say, was one part of what went into verifying the veracity of the prophet’s truth claims. Note also that God through Moses also reiterates his previous ‘test’ of whether the prophet is true, that being if he or she “Speaks in the name of other gods” (20). These tests then, not only applied to the formation of the law, or the five books of Moses, but were meant to be the canonical standard going forward with future revelation.

[More to come.]

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VI.1-2

“Our first parents being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:13; II Cor. 11:3). Here we see that Satan is the means by which our first parents were led to sin against a specific command given by God, of ‘special’ verbal revelation – a law not to eat fruit from the forbidden true. This tree was symbolic of the knowledge of good and evil. We know from Genesis 3 that it was not a literal snake that deceived Eve, but rather it was Satan who possessed and manifested himself in and through a snake. Similarly we are to understand the totality of the curse on the serpent as being a curse on Satan only, for a snake, as all other creatures, does not possess a moral volition, acting only by instinct.

When God utters the curse that the Serpent would crawl on his belly, God is cursing Satan by humbling him to a position where he must ‘lick the dust’, that is to be God’s defeated enemy. It is therefore an irony that Satan should employ a snake, which has been from the beginning a creature that crawls along the ground, and as such a visible symbol of Satan’s new state (Gen. 3:14-15 Cf. Jn. 8:44; Rev. 12:9; 20:2). We should also note that when we read that Adam was ‘with’ Eve when she was deceived and ate of the forbidden fruit, it does not necessarily mean that he was by her immediate side, but was with her in the garden. The latter better explains Paul’s words in II Corinthians 11:3.

If Adam were immediately by Eve’s side, Paul would not have said that he was not deceived as Eve was. Clearly Eve gave her husband the fruit of which she had eaten without him being immediately present at her side, and may in fact not have known where it was from, but he did not ask her where she got the fruit from, since he had never eaten it before (I Tim. 2:14). “This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory (Rom. 11:32).” This sentence hearkens back to earlier statements regarding God’s decrees, and it is in this context that we must understand the word ‘permit’ here.

The use of the word ‘permit’ must be reconciled with their statement at V.4 which states that God’s providential will “extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission.” Clark, in reference to this clause refers to Calvin’s Institutes II. Iv.3 and xxii.8.1 Therefore, the word ‘permit’ must carry a meaning in this context that is somehow used in a way that still anchors it in sovereign decretive will. “Here they [those who object to the divine decrees] recur to the distinction between will and permission, and insist that God permits the destruction of the impious, but does not will it. But what reason shall we assign for his permitting it, but because it is his will? (Institutes III, xxii, (8; cf. II, iv, 3).”2

“By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God (Gen. 3:6-8; Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 3:23), and so became dead in sin (Gen. 2:17; Eph. 2:1), and wholly defiled in all faculties and parts of soul and body (Titus 1:15; Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:10-18).It is also repeated here that fallen humanity is totally depraved, that is ‘total’ in all our parts, but not necessarily in degree. Total depravity also refers to it being a reality to our heart or core. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9 Cf. Js. 1:15) The spiritual and physical aspects of our humanity are affected, even our intellect is affected by the so-called ‘noetic’ or mind affects of sin, so that it also must be renewed (Rom. 12:1-2).

1. (67)

2. Ibid., (72)

The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section V.2-7

Section 1 made clear that the doctrine of providence, that is, the sovereign will of a personal God, eliminates both chance and fate. Sections 2-6 “of the Confession are directed against certain erroneous inferences which men have drawn from the doctrine stated in section 1 of this chapter. Here we are taught (1) that God’s absolute sovereignty does not destroy the integrity of man’s liberty, (2) nor does it deny the operation of second causes, (3) that God is, however, free to overrule these “laws” (and causes) when he pleases, (4) that God ordered even the fall of man without himself doing any evil, and (5) that God’s sovereignty extends to the inward operations of man’s heart (in both the saved and the lost) without participation in sin.”1 The sections that follow elaborate on these issues.

“Section II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly (Acts 2:23); yet, by the same providence, he orders them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently (Gen. 8:22; Ex. 21:13; Deut. 19:5; I Kgs. 22:28, 34; Is. 10:6-7; Jer. 31:35).” These sections reaffirm the idea that God predestines the means as well as the end of his sovereign work in history. “The bible teaches that all things are certainly determined, but that God’s providence arranges events according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. God does not decree an auto wreck apart from its causes; caution is the usual cause of safety, and wrecks are caused by recklessness.”2

Clark quoted the following from Zanchius’ ‘Absolute Predestination’. “In consequence of God’s immutable will and infallible foreknowledge, whatever things come to pass, come to pass necessarily, though with respect to second causes and us men, many things are contingent, i.e., unexpected and seemingly accidental.’ Thus the term ‘contingent’ refers to man’s way of looking at events, or more explicitly to man’s incomplete knowledge of how the events were caused.”3 “Section III. God in his ordinary providence makes use of means (Is. 55:10-11; Hos. 2:21-22; Acts 27:31, 44), yet is free to work without (Job 34:10; Hos. 1:7; Mt. 4:4), above (Rom. 4:19-21), and against them (II Kgs. 6:6; Dan. 3:27), at his pleasure.” God, in being independent of the means, is free to employ or not employ them to his own ends.

Furthermore, creation and providence are inseparable, since he sustains what he has created by the very modes of their original constitution. God is likewise free to re-create all that he has made in his sovereign redemptive plan. “It is in the execution of the same unchangeable plan that God first created every thing, endowed it with its properties, determined its mode of action and its mutual relations to all other things, and ever afterward continues to preserve it in the possession of its properties and to guide it in the exercise of them. Even in the writings of the prophets and apostles, who wrote under the control of a specific divine influence, rendering even their selection of words infallibly accurate, we can plainly see that the spontaneous exercise of the faculties of the writers was neither superseded nor coerced.”4

It is sometimes remarked that an inerrant and infallible inspiration of holy scripture must somehow violate the free actions of the human authors, but such a charge fails to understand the doctrine of providence. “The providence of God is either ordinary or miraculous. In his ordinary providence God works by means, and according to the general laws established by his own wisdom: we are, therefore, bound to use the means which he has appointed, and if we neglect these, we cannot expect to obtain the end. But though God generally acts according to establish laws, yet he may suspend or modify these laws at pleasure. And when, by his immediate agency, an effect is produced above or beside the ordinary course of nature, this we denominate a miracle.”5

“Section IV. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men (Rom. 11:32-34; II Sam. 16:10; 24:1; I Kgs. 22:22-23; I Chron. 10:4, 13-14; 21:1; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28), and that not by a bare permission (Acts 14:16), but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding (II Kgs. 19:28; Ps. 126:10), and otherwise ordering and governing them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends (Gen. 1:20; Is. 10:6-7, 12); yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin (Ps. 1:21; I Jn. 2:16; Js. 1:13-14, 17).”

“That the providence of God is concerned about the sinful actions of creatures must be admitted. Joseph’s brethren committed a most wicked and unnatural action in selling him to the Midianites; but Joseph thus addressed his brethren: (Gen. 45:5). The most atrocious crime ever perpetrated by human hands was the crucifixion of the Lord of glory, yet it is expressly affirmed that God delivered him into those wicked hands which were imbrued in his sacred blood.”6 “God’s relation to sin is not that of bare permission; in fact, as Calvin shows in his ‘Institutes’, II, iv. 3 and III, xxiii. 8, permission in the case of the Almighty has no specific meaning; the proof texts cited in the Confession and many other passages not cited amply support the creedal statement.”7

“Section V. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God, does oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled (II Sam. 24:1; I Chr. 24:1; II Chr. 32:25-26, 31); and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends (Ps. 73; 77:1, 10, 12; Mk. 14:66-72; Jn. 21:15, 17; II Cor. 12:7-9).” “The providence of God, instead of causing sin or approving it, is constantly concerned in forbidding it by positive law, in discouraging it by threatenings and actual punishments, in restraining it  and in overruling it against its own nature to good.”8

“Section VI. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins does blind and harden (Rom. 1:24-28; 11:7-8), from them he not only withholds his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts (Dt. 29:4), but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had (Mt. 13:12; 25:29), and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin (Dt. 2:30; II Kgs. 8:12-13), and withal, gives them over to their lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan (Ps. 81:11-12; II Th. 2:10-12); whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God uses for the softening of others (Ex. 7:3; 8:15, 32; Is. 6:9-10; 8:14; Acts 28:26-27; II Cor. 2:15-16; I Pet. 2:7-8).”

“In Scripture, God is frequently said to harden wicked men for their former sins. This he does, not by infusing any wickedness into their hearts, or by direct and positive influence on their soul in rendering them obdurate, but by withholding his grace, which is necessary to soften their hearts, and which he is free to give or withhold as he pleases; by giving them over to their own hearts’ lusts, to the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan; and by providentially placing them in such circumstances, or presenting such objects before them, as their corruption makes an occasion of hardening themselves.”9  “That the general providence of God, embracing and dealing with every creature according to its nature, consequently, although one system, embraces several subordinate systems intimately related as parts of one whole.

The principle of these are, the providence of God over the material universe; the general moral government of God over the intelligent universe; the moral government of God over the human family in general in this world; and the special gracious dispensation of God’s providence toward his Church.”10 “Section VII. As the providence of God does, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it takes care of his church, and disposes all things to the good thereof (II Chron. 16:9; Is. 43:3-5, 14; Amos 9:8-9; Rom. 8:28; I Tim. 4:10).” “These sections teach also that there is a relation of subordination subsisting between these several systems of providence, as means to ends in the wider system which comprehends them all. Thus the providential government over mankind in general is subordinate as a means to an end to his gracious providence toward his church (Rom. viii. 28).”11

Hodge also elaborates on this last point, by referring to what has come to be called biblical revelation, but also the growth and strengthening of the church following upon the close of that special revelation, as the former is a sure hope for the church of the latter. “The history of redemption through all its dispensations, Patriarchal, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Christian, is key to the philosophy of human history in general. The race is preserved, continents and islands are settled with inhabitants, nations are elevated to empire, philosophy and practical arts, civilization and liberty are advanced, that the Church, the Lamb’s bride, may be perfected in all her members and adorned for her Husband.”12 This in turn is for the equipping of the church to proclaim, work, and pray that the Lord’s kingdom would come, and that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10 Cf. Mt. 16:15-20).

1. Williamson, (48-49)

2. Clark, (62)

3. Ibid., (64)

4. Hodge, (96)

5. Shaw, (111)

6. Ibid., (112)

7. Clark, (67)

8. Hodge, (100)

9. Shaw, (113)

10. Hodge, (101)

11. Ibid., (101)

12. Ibid., (101)